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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Dress code violates ‘right to bare arms’

In a sea of students, it’s not hard to pick out the girl in a neon yellow shirt. She’s shuffling down the halls of Edgewater High in Orange County, arms crossed over her midsection, though her effort does little to hide the words “Dress Code” peeking over her forearm.

This August, the Orange County Public Schools punished dress code violators by making them wear distracting neon yellow shirts proclaiming “DRESS CODE” on them. Its purpose was to make these girls stand out and humiliate them into dressing in a way school officials agree with. Fortunately, the practice was stopped, but why did administrators think this was acceptable in the first place?

Unfortunately, women often get a bad bargain when it comes to appearances. They are judged for their sexuality by their dress with no regard to their character. Many schools across the nation are reinforcing this mindset by punishing young women for being “distracting,” rather than teaching kids to respect their peers’ right to dress how they wish.

Dress codes are insulting to both genders. Girls are burdened to cover themselves up to avoid distracting their classmates, and guys are essentially told they are unable to control themselves.

Orange County’s method was especially hypocritical, since justification for the dress code is to prevent distraction. A neon yellow shirt is not only disruptive, but it is also the equivalent of slapping the label “slut” on a girl.

Schools teach us that we should judge people by their personalities, not their appearances, but the concept of a dress code contradicts that ideal.

A student who wears revealing clothing deserves just as much respect as a student modestly dressed. However, the dress code, which regulates students’ clothing in order to promote a “positive learning environment,” conditions them to believe that their clothing is linked to their character.

People should respect girls for who they are and how they act, not the clothes they wear. While parading around naked would be uncomfortable for everyone involved, most students wear clothes that are well within societal norms. As long as people are covering the essentials and wearing more than their underwear, they should be left alone.

The Saratoga High dress code is by no means the worst it could be. But it should be noted that when administrators talk about shirts, shorts and skirts being “a length appropriate for school,” it’s primarily aimed at girls. The school should shift from being worried about appropriateness and more concerned about ensuring that girls feel safe while at school.

Redwood Middle School has its own dress code, and it has been pretty serious about policing it over the years. Spaghetti straps are banned on graduation dresses, which is a little outrageous, considering there’s nothing inherently sexual about a person’s shoulders, especially not a middle schooler’s.

The clothes people wear are a form of expression. When people feel good in what they are wearing, they’re confident. Later in life students may not have the luxury of wearing what they want, but then they at least have a choice in what work environment. High school is mandatory for everyone, so why not let students experiment in this growing period?

Dress codes should only regulate clothes promoting offensive messages such as sexism, racism or drugs. These are to respect other’s feelings and set a standard of treating people with decency.

A racist slur printed on a shirt will stick with a person much longer than the length of someone’s skirt. A dress code should also exist as a safety precaution against dangerous parts of clothing, such as chains or gang symbols.

Some schools’ dress codes even force violators to miss a day of valuable lessons in class on the pretext of being indecent. Aside from outright forcing violators to miss school, the punishment for some dress code violations is humiliation.

A few schools have even taken their dress code to new derogatory levels. Superintendent Rhonda Bass of Noble High in Oklahoma allegedly announced in a school wide assembly that she didn’t want to see her female students “dressed as skanks,” as well as some other unsavory descriptors. One student complained that Bass made girls bend over to check the length of their skirts or shorts.

The problem behind the dress codes isn’t exclusive to schools. A 2012 Iowa Supreme Court ruling allowed bosses to fire “irresistible” employees wearing revealing clothing, allowing a boss to fire his employee because he thought she was attractive and threatened his marriage.

Worst of all, dress codes set the standards for rape culture, which is the idea that victims are held responsible for being sexually assaulted because of what they wear. Women  are taught that their bodies are innately sexual and tempting at 10 years old. This is horrifying, paired with the fact that according to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, 44 percent of rapes happen to women under the age of 18.

The rape culture implications of the dress code shouldn’t be ignored. American schools should teach diversity, openness and respect for each other’s bodies by not banning clothing when it offends the sensibilities of adults. Scaling back on dress codes is a step in the right direction to promote women as people, not as sex objects.

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